By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — A Cleveland County jury returned a $2.5 million verdict against a local Norman Regional Hospital doctor in district court Friday.
Attorney Jeff Glendening, defending Dr. Lana Nelson, said Monday it was a complicated case and he thought the verdict reflected a lot of sympathy for the family involved.
Nelson performed a gastric bypass surgery on Donna Smith, 50, of Thackerville, in October 2009. Smith was losing blood after the surgery and Smith’s attorney alleged that as a result, Smith died two days later, Glendening said.
Smith’s attorney, Spencer Housing, said Monday after a long week of trial the family has been through a lot with rehashing old stories and opening old wounds, but they feel “their mom has been vindicated.”
Glendening said the jurors seemed to be swayed by emotion and sympathy because during the pendency of the lawsuit, Smith’s husband was killed by a drunk driver and her daughter had died two months ago for reasons never explained.
“Dr. Nelson absolutely met appropriate standards of surgical care, which is a big deal. Her medical management of Ms. Smith was appropriate at all times,” Glendening said. “On behalf of Dr. Nelson, we established beyond, frankly, any doubt there was no bleed. There was not a bleed beyond what would have normally been expected in surgery and that she did not loose so much blood that it caused her death.”
The defense attorney said Smith was morbidly obese and knew it was a risky procedure because of her underlying issues. While she had a list of illnesses associated with her obesity, the underlying surgery was without any complications, he said.
Smith also knew she would most likely die without the gastric bypass surgery, Glendening said.
“Dr. Nelson also undertook a second exploratory surgery to rule out or confirm a post-operative bleed that might have explained Ms. Smith’s deteriorating condition post operatively, and no bleed was ever found,” he said.
Nelson has been practicing since 2005 after completing her fellowship. Glendening said she was remarkably well trained.
“We are stunned by this, raising again the question as to whether or not lay jurors can truly understand the intricacies and the nuances attended to these complicated surgical procedures,” Glendening said.
The attorney said the doctor is devastated, not only because of Smith’s death that is something Nelson will live with for the rest of her life but to also have a jury find that she caused that death.
“(Smith’s death) is extraordinarily difficult for her to accept. In fact, she does not accept that, nor will she ever,” he said.
Glendening said Nelson has dedicated her life to helping people and will continue practicing.